Saint-Emilion the Medieval

The region of Saint-Emilion is famous not only for its wines but also for the city itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which from the top of its hill overlooks the surrounding vineyards and the Dordogne valley.

A medieval wine-growing city

The medieval city of Saint-Emilion includes the largest monolithic church in Europe and a large number of ancient buildings, caves, monuments dating from the Middle Ages and many other sites of interest to inside and around the bustling city. Saint-Emilion is at the heart of the wine region; its history and heritage bear witness to this.
Find here all the monuments to visit during your visit in this beautiful little village

Saint Emilion and the legend...

The world’s first UNESCO classified working vineyards surround a town steeped in history.

The town dates back to a Roman settlement, founded by Decimus Ausonius in the 4C when the Romans controlled Gaul. Chateau Ausone is named after him. 

The surrounding vineyards date back to 4C Roman viticulture

According to legend, the town of St Emilion was founded by a monk from Brittany who sought refuge in a cave in a place called Ascum Bas in the 8C. After making a miracle, he fled his notoriety. His name was Emilion. He lived as a hermit, dedicating the rest of his life to worship and performing miracles which earned him a following. The village was named St Emilion after his death. The Benedictine monks who succeeded Emilion, under the influence of a local lord, dug an underground church: the monolithic church.

Village saint-emilion ombre  

St Emilion is steeped in medieval history

Here are just a few of the sites:

The monolithic church is one of the town’s main tourist attractions. The church was dug in one block within the limestone plateau in the late 11th and early 12th centuries. Other underground galleries were enlarged and used as catacombs. The church is topped by a belfry which soars 68 meters about the town. The view from the belfry is just reward for the 198 steps to the top!

The Trinity Chapel is a wonderful representation of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic style.

The nearby monastery was founded near to the grotto where the saint was buried, from caves hollowed out by the Benedictine monks. Emilion’s hermitage is the oldest monument in Saint-Emilion. It was carved from rocks close to to the St Emilion Spring. According to legend, this spring was originally located further downhill, but miraculously moved for the hermit.

The Cadène Arch dates to the 13C and is located on the Rue de la Cadène. It was designed to monitor people moving from the different sections of the town.

Monolithic Church

Eglise monolithe  

The Cadène Arch

Porte Cadène  

The church Nave

Eglise monolithe intérieur  

The steep winding roads are known locally as TertresThe Tertre of the Tente links the square of the monolithic church to the square of the bell tower, with superb views over the village and the countryside. It is flanked by the medieval Gothic cloisters, which date back to the 13C. The remains of the medieval frescos are still visible as are the splendid sculptures.

The Tour du Roy is the last remaining Roman Tower in the Gironde. Built on a rocky outcrop and quarries dating back to the middle ages, the Tower was built in the 13C. It is a subject of much debate as to whether it was constructed by a French or an English King or by local Noblemen. It is today used by the Jurade (the wine ambassadors) who gather at the top of the tower to proclaim judgement and herald the start of the wine harvest. Climb the 118 steps to the top for a fantastic view over the town and the surrounding countryside.

No visit to St Emilion is complete without a visit to the 14C Cordeliers cloisters. Classed as an historic monument, the ruins are a haven of peace - the former medieval herb gardens are just the place to try the local sparkling wine, accompanied by a macaroon or two.

As you’re leaving town, look out for La Grande Muraille - the unrestored, magnificent wall and last vestige of an immense XIII contrary Dominican monastery, destroyed in the 100 Years War. The wall gives its name to the neighbouring chateau.

Cordeliers Cloisters


The Tour du Roy

Jurade tour du roy  

The Tertres